Belfast Telegraph

Rory Best urges Ulster fans to sign farmers' petition

By Chris McCullough

Ulster Rugby star and farmer Rory Best has appealed to fans to back farmers in their battle for better produce prices.

The Irish hooker has asked everyone on his Twitter feed to sign a Westminster petition that has already gathered more than 44,000 signatures backing local farmers.

His plea came after another blow to the sector because of the ongoing wet weather.

Hay and silage crops are being lost in some parts as torrential rain has either saturated the crop as it lies or has left the ground too wet to get onto with heavy machinery.

Farm contractors are battling the weather each day and some are running around three weeks to a month behind schedule.

Ballycastle contractor Seamus McClements bales silage and spreads slurry for around 30 customers in counties Antrim and Londonderry.

He has customers with grass ready to cut but cannot get into some of the fields.

"This year is all mixed up. There are no seasons anymore. It seems to pelt down with rain constantly," he said. "I am working about three weeks behind normal as the rain just keeps us out of the fields.

"Customers have silage ready to cut, but in some cases it has overgrown as it has been too wet.

"We need a good spell of weather very soon or its going to end up a tough year for all of us.

"I have not heard of anyone making hay this year around here. I have two square balers sitting in the shed that have not turned a wheel so far."

Down the road in Coleraine John Lyons and his brother Stephen are also battling the elements trying to get grass in.

"We are getting a day here and a day there at the silage. The season is late and we are running about a month behind," said John.

"Fields are soaking and if we do get a dry day the fields don't dry up in time before it rains again.

"There has been no summer at all this year. Hay looks as if it is very scarce as there is very little being made."

A dairy farmer near Glenavy, who preferred to remain anonymous, said: "Grass regrowth for grazing animals in the fields is very slow with the lack of heat. If this rain continues we could be forced to bring the cattle indoors early which will increase our winter feeding costs. Grass is the cheapest form of feed farmers have and we can't even utilise it to its full potential this year.

"Add that to the dire situation we find ourselves in with appalling milk prices and farmers start to question if they can continue.

"Heavens forbid, but there could be a shortage of fodder this winter if farmers cannot get their crops gathered."

Belfast Telegraph


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